Jimmy Spithill’s squad won two races Tuesday, evening the score in the America’s Cup Finals at 8-8, as Emirates Team New Zealand has been unable to get the last win needed to claim the trophy.
The teams are scheduled to face off today in a winner-take-all match that will go a long way in determining the future of the event. Spithill insisted his team is still the underdog, not willing to break the pattern that has carried his team to this point.
“It’s not over,” he said. “That’s the key point here. We’ve got to finish it off. We’ve worked very, very hard to come back from where we were, and the guys want it. ... There’s this huge wave of momentum that we’ve been riding the last few days, and it just builds and builds and builds, and we’re going to carry that into tomorrow.”
New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said being on the other side of that coin — being the team that let what appeared to be a sure victory get away from it — hasn’t crossed his mind yet.
“I don’t think you’re ever focused on the ultimate outcome,” Barker said. “You just go out there to do the best you can in the races you’ve got. We’ve got one more race tomorrow, and that’ll determine, in the end, who comes out on top.”
Tuesday brought perhaps the most thrilling pair of races in this series.
In the first race of the day, a dramatic confrontation at the start line made all the difference. New Zealand appeared to have the advantage in the start box, getting out in front of Oracle early as both teams awaited the starting gun. The Kiwis may have made their move too soon, however, as the team was forced to slow down as it approached the start line to avoid crossing early.
Once Oracle got alongside New Zealand, it had the right of way as the leeward boat, and forced New Zealand into a penalty. The Kiwis received another penalty after crossing the start line, and Oracle was free to take off while its opponent could only watch. Oracle already had a 17-second lead at the first mark, and reached the finish 27 seconds ahead.
The second race was a different story, with New Zealand winning the start. It jumped out to an early lead, but made a tactical error by not crossing in front of Oracle on the upwind leg, instead tacking onto the same course as the defending champions.
Oracle quickly gained the upper hand when the Kiwis slowed into the turn, overtaking the challengers and dashing ahead. Now trailing, New Zealand was forced to make two extra tacks to get out from behind Oracle, and by the time it reached the third gate, it was 57 seconds behind.